INSIGHTS: GREAT INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS NEEDS TO ENTERTAIN
Cliff Ettridge is the director of creative branding agency The Team. Here he discusses gamification and entertainment in internal communications
Inform, Educate and Entertain. They are the three Reithian values that sat at the heart of the BBC. I’ve always thought they are a brilliant bell weather for the purpose of the BBC, and I think they act as a great set of principles for internal communications.
And yet, does internal communication in the UK stack up against these basic principles? I think there’s a lot more to do. Looking at each principle in turn, the industry is probably great at the first, yes, but do we educate and entertain enough? I’d suggest that we can do more.
Too often, brands become risk averse when it comes to messages, internally seeking safety behind leaders who are cautious when it comes to speaking out loud, proud and causing a bit of trouble. There are exceptions, but they are too few and far between. For example, BP – not an organisation you might link to creativity – created a Sim City style game that enabled new recruits to build their own oil company from scratch as a way of inducing people into the industry. Sovini Group launched a ‘games week’ to replace the boring annual conference. Krithika Krishnamurthy has documented a few more on her blog. I was lucky at The Body Shop to be given free rein to experiment, even launching the company’s business strategy one New Year in the guise of a pantomime, replete with the celebs of the day.
Why don’t we entertain more? This is probably because the industry doesn’t recruit enough artists, actors, storytellers, filmmakers, painters and musicians. When did your communications department last put an advert in The Stage, or go to see performances at Guildhall? When did you last watch the degree shows in Barcelona, Manchester, at Rhode Island School of Design, St Martins or check out the film-work coming out of USC, Los Angeles or the London Film Academy?
Until the industry starts to look at emerging talent in things like game-making, then we’ll keep seeing the same solutions for the same problems being trotted out again and again. Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Today, information has to be entertainment. Infotainment is not a new concept, but we’re just not doing enough of it. I’ve lost count of the number of pitches I’ve done where the ideas that have had us laughing out loud in the office have fallen at some higher altar.
And yet, people come into the office each day talking about Game of Thrones, Glastonbury, the latest episode of Bake Off, Masterchef or Love Island; what they’ve seen on YouTube, memes and GIFs on Twitter and how many worlds they’ve created in Fortnite. And then they are turned into corporate zombies by reading the emails that come from HQ. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the case everywhere, but too often businesses are content with their main means of internal communication being an email from the boss. Hell, the boss probably wants something different too.
It’s why RBS – who have embraced Workplace – are now creating content that needs to work and be shareable in the digital age. It’s why our gamification of ‘ringfencing’ (a somewhat dry subject) worked so well.
So, this is my plea. To agencies and heads of internal communications functions: go recruit the artists. And to the leaders, let your artists tell the brand’s stories in ways that are entertaining and educational. That way people will feel more informed and more engaged. That’s the employee experience we all want.